Hospital told Panama City wife her husband died. 7 hours later, they say doctor 'misspoke'
PANAMA CITY — A man who was allegedly declared deceased in error on Wednesday at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay is now fighting for his life at a veterans hospital in Gainesville.
The incident was brought to the forefront of local news after family and friends of 39-year-old Jake Chapman began protesting outside of the hospital Friday night upon learning Chapman had not died Wednesday, though put on life support. The group was primarily comprised of Chapman’s faith family from Lighthouse Church, where he once served as a worship leader.
Chapman's wife of 16 years, Kristen Chapman, said she received the reverse declaration over the phone on Wednesday evening, about seven hours after initially being told her husband and father of their five children was deceased.
"Seven hours later, I received another call saying they were running more tests and his heart is beating on its own and the doctor misspoke," a rather frazzled Kristen Chapman said in an interview Monday. "That's not something you misspeak about. I don't know how in the world that could happen."
ASH Bay declined to comment Wednesday, citing HIPAA restrictions. The company also declined to comment about COVID-19-related visitation rights of family members of declared deceased patients.
“Because of the context of your questions, the HIPAA law restrictions still apply. We cannot comment because of the federal HIPAA law that protects the privacy of information about a patient's health or healthcare,” officials wrote.
According to Kristen, the red tape of rules, likely those related to COVID-19, had barred her from seeing her husband — deceased or while on life support — during his stay at the hospital. Since Wednesday, she was permitted to spend just 45 minutes with him — 15 minutes Friday and 30 minutes Saturday.
He was transferred to the VA hospital Sunday night at a request by Congressman Neal Dunn (R-Panama City). Chapman served as a medic in the Army.
"It's such a heartbreaking story for a young family, young guy," Dunn said in an interview Monday, noting that kind of "confusion and miscommunication" doesn't happen a lot in the medical industry. "I was pleased to help the family get him to a center where they're comfortable. He's certainly going to get the help he needs."
The new medical environment has given Chapman's family time and confidence to focus on his recovery.
"My nerves have been shot. We have been through so many ups and downs," Kristen Chapman said. The new medical team is "making sure we are kept informed."
"We are so grateful," she added.
She said Chapman is currently on a ventilator and receiving medications to regulate his blood pressure. His diagnosis remains undetermined, though it is believed he suffered a stroke.
Stammering to release her words through deep exhalations, she reflected on the few moments she was granted to spend with her husband during his five-day stay at ASH.
"I've just been telling him how much I love him, how much the kids love him and how much everyone is praying for him," she said.
On a video Kristen posted to social media on Saturday, the promising galloping sounds of Rattle by Elevation Worship echoes throughout his hospital room. It’s the kind of music that has always kept the church worship leader comforted and ready for a miracle.
“Jake, he was — he is — well loved. He has a lot of friends. He wants to help everyone he comes in contact with. He has a lot of people advocating for him,” Kristen Chapman said. “He is a great husband and father, and there is no reason he deserved to be treated like that.”